On Monday night Daniel Bryan made a decision that wasn’t best for business.
He did, however, make a decision that was best for Daniel Bryan.
In announcing that he was giving up a lucrative wrestling career, one that had finally started to pay dividends over the past few years, Bryan was instead choosing a life that hopefully will allow him do the things that a normal 34-year-old man might aspire to.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Bryan bared his soul in front of a hometown crowd in Seattle, Wash., and millions more watching live on Raw, and admitted what most already knew. The WWE superstar was told by doctors — in no uncertain terms — that stepping back into the ring could jeopardize his future health.
Bryan has suffered a rash of injuries in recent years while making his way to the top of the card. Reaching the WWE mountaintop was no small feat for a performer considered undersized by WWE standards and without the look of a top-tier draw. But the consummate underdog bucked the odds, proving that a talent who could make it in the indy ranks also could rise to the top in the big-league WWE.
Championship runs, however, were derailed by injuries. Sidelined for the past year due to recurring concussions, Bryan grew increasingly frustrated with WWE. Several doctors had given him the green light to return to action, yet WWE continued to resist. The company’s own doctor had concluded that wrestling would only increase the chances for more concussions, resulting in a condition that could ultimately cause serious brain damage.
WWE went the extra mile by putting a hold on Bryan’s contract, preventing him from putting in his notice and jumping to another promotion. Bryan had considered testing the free agent market, where he would have been one of the hottest attractions on the worldwide scene. He was convinced that he could still perform at a high level, and that if WWE shut him out, he would go elsewhere to do something he had done and loved his entire life.
With the company in desperate need of a star of Bryan’s caliber to boost publicity and attendance for the upcoming Wrestlemania at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, it had become apparent that the potential head-injury risks greatly outweighed the benefits.
Ever aware of increasing concerns over concussion-related chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the bad publicity that could result from it, WWE remained steadfast in its position to keep Bryan out of the ring.
Bryan recently agreed to more extensive brain scans and was told what he didn’t want to hear. An EEG test revealed slowing of electrical activity and a lesion in his brain. He also admitted he had been suffering from post-concussion seizures.
In one of the most emotional segments ever staged on Raw, Bryan explained his medical situation after earlier in the day announcing his immediate retirement on Twitter. His decision ended months of speculation about his status with the company.
He candidly revealed that he suffered “a lot” of concussions during his 16-year career— starting with three in the first five months of turning pro after high school.
Fighting back tears, he talked about how the latest test he had on his brain had revealed that maybe his brain wasn’t as “OK” as he thought. He talked about other priorities in his wife, how wife Brie wanted to start a family and how he wanted to be able to walk and run with his future children.
He made a decision and it was the right one.
During his speech, Bryan explained that his previous tests had always cleared him for competition.
“And for a long time I thought that because I had gotten EEGs and brain MRIs and neuropsychological evaluations, and all of them said this: that I was fine, and that I could come back, and I could wrestle.”
Bryan told ESPN that his experience could help others in the future.
“If you get a concussion, you need to report it because one of the worst things you can do is get a concussion and then go back to doing a contact sport before your brain is fully healed. You have a responsibility to yourself, to your family, to your friends to report it just to protect yourself.”
Far too many in the business have taken it far beyond what their bodies would allow, and many have paid the price.
That doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
Fans are still scratching their heads over the recent suspension of WWE star Titus O’Neil.
The popular WWE performer was suspended for 60 days for merely trying to get WWE owner Vince McMahon’s attention as he walked down the aisle following Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech Monday night.
Video shows O’Neil attempting to grab McMahon’s arm as he walked toward the back, with daughter Stephanie McMahon and son-in-law Triple H following closely behind. McMahon aggressively pulled away from O’Neil, and reportedly was enraged when he returned to the dressing and room and decided to initially levy a 90-day suspension for “unprofessional conduct,” later reducing it to 60 days. That would mean O’Neil will miss the biggest payday of the year — Wrestlemania.
WWE vehemently denied the suspension was racially motivated.
“The suspension of Titus O’Neil had nothing to do with race and everything to do with unprofessional conduct,” WWE said in a statement, adding that O’Neil “acknowledged the gravity of his mistake.”
Many supporters have since chimed in, including former WWE world champion Batista (Dave Bautista), who suggested that O’Neil should ask for his release from the company.
No explanation has yet been given as to why O’Neil chose that particular time to get McMahon’s attention, or if it was simply an innocent gesture that McMahon perhaps thought was out of place.
Either way, the bizarre decision to suspend the wrestler sounds particularly harsh in light of O’Neil’s stellar work not only inside the ring, but outside of it as well.
The 38-year-old O’Neil, whose real name is Thaddeus Michael Bullard Sr., was raised by a single mother who struggled to put food on the table and has been one of WWE’s biggest community outreach advocates, giving to the less fortunate throughout the year.
In August, on a whim, he fed over 20 homeless people at a sit-down restaurant in San Diego. He is an organizer and main donor for “The Joy of Giving,” a program of Revealing Truth Ministries in Tampa, Fla., that provides very special presents to children in families facing financial struggles.
The 6-4, 270-pound former University of Florida football star has never faltered in using his success to help others.
So what gives? That’s a question many fans will be waiting anxiously to be answered.
WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart is recovering from prostate surgery on Wednesday.
The seven-time world champion revealed on Feb. 1 that he was suffering from cancer and vowed to fight the disease. He said then in a Facebook post that he would rely on the love of his family, friends and supporters to help beat the disease.
“Surgery’s over and on the long road to recovery,” the 58-year-old Hart posted on his Instagram account. “I want to thank Dr. Hyndman and the nursing staff at Rocky View Hospital for an outstanding job. I also want to thank my family, friends and fans for all your love and support. Things are looking up and I should be home in the next couple of days. In the words of Vince McMahon: ‘It’s onwards and upwards.’”
Hart suffered a significant stroke in 2002 that left him partially paralyzed, but made a successful recovery.
Mark Nulty, who ran the popular Wrestling Classics message board, passed away Wednesday at the age of 55 after a battle with lung cancer.
Nulty was diagnosed a year ago with stage 4 lung cancer which eventually spread into his abdomen and later his brain.
The former newspaper journalist had served in the wrestling profession for a number of years and was a host on the last days of Texas All-Star Wrestling. He created the nostalgic Wrestling Classics site more than 15 years ago.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.